If, by “succeed,” you mean get a job as a PA. Beyond that, I can’t really help you.
Lisa Klink had a post yesterday about what us assistants look like when you’re a big time TV writer. (Okay, she’s not J.J. Abrams-type big time, but she’s certainly more impressive than me.) She wrote that she was never an assistant, and thus had no experience in becoming one.
That’s where I come in!
You’d think it’d be easy getting a crappy job at the bottom of the food chain, but they’re surprisingly competitive. There’s always more applicants than jobs available, even among assistants. This is, of course, even more true among the higher-prestige gopher jobs. It’s much harder to be an agent’s assistant than an office PA, and getting on a network show is more difficult than getting on a low-budget indie.
So, how do you get into these low-wage, low-status, low-self-esteem jobs? Work on a no-wage, low-status, low-self-esteem job!
If you’re in college, apply for an internship at a production company (or an agency, if that’s your thing). If you’ve already graduated (or just plain skipped that part), you’re still going to have to work for free.
Peruse Craig’s List or Mandy.com, and look for no-budget movies in need of PAs. You won’t get paid and you won’t eat well, but you’ll meet a lot of people and learn a heck of a lot. Since there’s no union rules, you’ll just as likely be pulling cable or holding a boom as taking on the usual PA duties of shushing people and trying to look busy. It’s the best film school there is. (Trust me when I say this; I went to one of the best.)
The thing about low budget movies is that everyone is there to advance their careers. The DP may work as an cameraman or a gaffer normally, but she’s willing to take a pay cut to get a better title. Pretty soon, though, she’s going to have to pay the bills back to less prominent positions on shows with bigger budgets. The same goes for the production designer, the AD, and everyone else.
And when they go, you can ride their coattails on to a whopping 115 a day.